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An interview with… James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington

The Paddler ezine: Oct 2013

I grew up in a little town outside of Warrington, England not too far from North Wales. I started out in my local Wigan canoeing group aged nine or ten and got into it from there. My dad joined me in paddling after seeing me do it and still goes out every weekend, my mum isn’t so interested in getting cold and wet though but their both very supportive. I have a wife Katya, we met competing at the World Cups in 2008, she’s a paddler on the Russian Freestyle team and now we travel/paddle together full-time.

james pringle bebbington

hat kayaks do you own at the moment?
I have a Carbon Dagger Jitsu 5.9, a plastic Jitsu 5.9, a Dagger Mamba 8.6, and an Axio. In the rafters of my parents garage my Worlds winning Guigui Easymix still lives 😉 ­

Where and what was your first paddle?
My first ever paddle was in Ashton swimming baths, around 17 years ago. My first whitewater trip would be about 15 years ago I guess and it was surfing the Arneside bore shortly followed by a trip down the Burrs a week or so later – I was very quickly addicted to it.

What and where was your first competition?
My first competition was the tag team rodeo held on Tryweryn; I was teamed up with PYB coach Pete Caterall and Chris Ford.

I’d just been taught to spin and then our team came third so I was ecstatic – I think my teammates helped quite a lot!

Then after that I started going to Peak challenges as often as they occurred, they were a great series to get you good at competing and also a great place to meet other paddlers!

After paddling over most of the planet – where is your favourite river and why?
The White Nile, Uganda before the dams – it was perfect! You could enjoy blasting down some really fun big rapids or go surf for a few hours on one of the best waves in the World (Ugly Sisters, Malalu, Nile Special) and all surrounded by luscious jungle, the place had it all!

Now with the latest dams it’s still a good destination but it’s lost a bit of it’s sparkle. However, maybe now that some of it’s gone forever, it’s cemented its place as my all-time favourite – I’ll never have the opportunity to get bored of it.

james pringle bebbington

Kayaking or film-making – how do they both give you satisfaction and does one give more than the other?
Well I’d say I enjoy kayaking much more than making films 😉

I kayak for a few reasons, in the beginning it was because of the pure fun I had doing it, then the joy and satisfaction of learning new tricks and perfecting rides, now I enjoy it most of all because of what I learn about myself through training hard and trying to compete at my best.

It forces you to become a better person. When you make some significant progress and learn your lesson fast that’s when I end up winning stuff, when I don’t paddle my best it happens to teach me something. Either way it’s a success. I just love kayaking and being in the outdoors doing what I love and what that brings into my life.

Film-making is often a very frustrating, time consuming process – trying to get the moves you want to show, the shots you’d like and the idea for each clip but when you finally get it how you’d like, the satisfaction washes away all the time, effort and frustration.

Obviously some videos I spend more effort on than others so that makes a difference but I do really enjoy what we (me and Katya) produce together when we put our full talents and effort into it. She has a great eye and is very good at directing me and envisioning how everything should look (she’s a professional artist). I’m good at all the technical stuff so together we’re a very good team.

Which film do you hold as the best you’ve ever made?
I think our best work was my last Uganda video:

For showing the whole feel of a trip though one of my favourites is from Galicia:

What is the biggest accomplishment in your career?
Winning World Champs in 2011 and the World Cup in 2010, those are my two best moments definitely.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?
I made so much progress this year in my skills and techniques

but I didn’t really show that progress in competition yet. Over the winter I plan on really getting those skills consistent so that next season I can really show what I can do and paddle my best. My main goal for 2014 is to win the European Championships in Slovakia and the World Cup series in Spain.

What would be your ultimate achievement?
Ultimately I want to be able to show my best in every competition I enter, if I can get to that point that would trump all my previous achievements. Competitively though I dream of hitting a 2000 point ride and winning seven World Champs. ­

Any advice for those starting out in freestyle?
Enjoy yourself and persevere! To do well in freestyle you just need to love falling on your face, and never give up. If you combine those attributes, paddle regularly and keep up your love for the sport you’ll go far and learn all the moves you wish to do.

james pringle bebbington

Which paddlers out there are currently pushing the freestyle boundaries?
There are too many paddlers to name who are pushing freestyle right now – the sport’s booming with talent at the moment!

Notably though Mathieu Dumoulin really impressed me this year with his new style of linked rides – it certainly gave the sport a big push in terms of how to make a ride flow.

Dane Jackson has been flying and I really like his style – no one is yet to match him in going huge or clean.

In terms of innovating, I’ve been very impressed with some of the moves GB’s Bren Orton’s been coming up with. My favourite paddler who is really rising at the moment is Tomasz Czaplicki from Poland. He came third at the Worlds and ever since has been hopping in a Jitsu and tearing up every feature he’s gone in.

What are the benefits of being a Team Dagger kayaker?
I’m one of only five kayakers who get to use a Carbon Dagger Jitsu – surely the biggest benefit 😉

Can you talk about your training? Greatest inspiration? Role models/who/what kept you motivated?
This season I started working with Dennis Newton (GB coach and Sweetwater coaching) so I added in a strength training program, had much more structure to my on the water sessions and made a huge leap forward in my skills largely thanks to him. This involves two sessions on the water a day and strength training three or four times a week.

This year I really trained the hardest I ever did. I peaked a little bit early for Worlds but I can see the potential this approach has. So for next season I’m increasing the amount of time on the water each day and adding in more intense strength training & hopefully doing more regular sessions with Dennis if he has the time. I also like to do some other sports to keep me fit and give me a break from kayaking – especially cycling. This year I even did an expedition cycling from Marrakech to the Sahara and back!

My biggest inspiration in the past came from Peter Csonka – he showed me what you could do if you focus and train hard! He still really inspires me for the same reasons. He’s the best competitor in the World and the reason I got back into competing in 2009.

My motivation comes from a desire to reach my potential in the sport. I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved but I know I’m capable of much more if I train in the right way. I just love the process of training for a goal.

I’m a paddler and going on holiday, where would you recommend?
If you’ve never been there I’d still recommend Uganda – even with the dam it’s a dream freestyle location!

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Living in a house me and Katya built ourselves, somewhere close to a good playspot in beautiful nature, growing all our own fruit and veg surrounded by rescued animals & wildlife with a few kids running around. We’ll both be multiple World Champions and still paddling hard and helping others to do the same!

Any regrets?
Nope – life is pretty much a dream come true so far.

And finally – where does the nickname ‘Pringle’ come from?
No real story. I turned up for the summer kayaking in Nottingham when I was 14 with just a couple packs of Pringles for food. A few of the guys started calling me ‘pringle’ to annoy me and thus it stuck – now I like it.

james pringle bebbington

OK let’s finish with something short and snappy…

If you could paddle with anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be?
Gandhi or my wife Katya 😉

Pick two celebrities to be your parents
Kelly Slater the surfer and… I can’t think of any female celebrities I like, can I just keep my real mum? (Go on then:)

What’s on your TiVo recorder?
After googling what TiVo is, I don’t really watch TV (or have one) – I follow surfing and cycling events livestreams online and like documentaries though.

Favourite iPod track?
Queen – We are the champions – I just watched a Freddie Mercury documentary on a flight so he’s my new hero.

If you won £10 million on the lottery, what would you do with it?
Build a sanctuary for rescued farm animals – I’m a passionate vegetarian 😉 Sponsor all the freestyle kayakers I like and go on a big World tour to the best spots. Go watch all the ASP World Tour surfing events. Design and build a fully solar powered car. Start my own carbon kayak company, build a few home’s… I have many ideas, so if you have a spare £10m I can help you spend it for sure!

Cats or dogs?
I like both!

Facebook or Twitter?

An ideal night out for you is?
A night in watching the ASP World Tour – (I’m a big fan of surfing) – I don’t drink or like clubs.

What one luxury item would you take with you on a desert island?
My Juicer – my mum got us a fruit juicer for my birthday, it’s AMAZING!

What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Carrots, celery, fennel, spinach, beetroot, pineapple, tomatoes… did I mention we got a juicer? (Yes, think you did:)

What do you get really angry about?
How hard it is to get Katya a proper UK spouse visa! Our immigration is confusing, difficult and a pain in the ass!

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
I’d make you Gazpacho for starters, a raw Courgette Pasta for the main and a Raw Chocolate Gateau – I’m a raw vegan but you’d be surprised what amazing stuff we can make!

If you could be a superhero for one day, what superpower would you choose and why?
I’d choose to be able fly – must be the best feeling ever!

Favourite team?
Sky Procycling 😉

What three words would you use to describe you?
Determined, optimistic and kind.

Thanks for your time James:)

james pringle bebbington

About thepaddlerezine (655 Articles)
Editor of The Paddler magazine and Publisher of Stand Up Paddle Mag UK.

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